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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

SPANISH HARLEM ORCHESTRA

By Marie Elsie St. Léger
Published January 19, 2006

Across 110th Street
Libertad

2002’s Grammy-winning Un Gran Dia en el Barrio established the 16-member Spanish Harlem Orchestra as devoted disciples of Tito Puente. Now, the ensemble ups the ante with this live-in-the-studio recording, shrugging off the sophomore jinx with salsa dura based firmly on the music of Puente as well as Ray Barretto, Willie Colon and Ruben Blades. Blades joins some of his former band members here, providing vocals on several tracks (he opens strongly with “Un Gran Dia en el Barrio”) and an original tune (“Tu Te Lo Pierdes”). But the star remains the orchestra. Musical director Oscar Hernandez, a Barretto veteran, shows great flair on such older tunes as “Como Lo Canto Yo” and gives new tunes, like Ray Viera’s “Tun Tún Suena el Tambor,” room to move the feet. And the group can bolero with the best of the old-timers, as on “Espérame en el Cielo”; regular vocalists Ray de la Paz, Marco Bermudez and Willie Torres sing with great sensitivity. So, grab a partner, and turn up the volume.